Ottawa Citizen

Skipping school to travel can be great for children

Parents weigh pros, cons of having kids miss class for extended vacations


TORONTO Heather Greenwood Davis has few qualms about pulling her children out of school for shortterm trips — a practice she plans to continue in future.

In fact, the Toronto-based travel writer is such a firm believer in the benefits of learning beyond the classroom that in 2011, she took a year-long globe-trotting journey with her husband and sons (then age six and eight).

Greenwood Davis documented their adventures — which spanned six continents and 29 countries — on her website, Globetrott­ing Mama.

“I know the value that travel has brought to my life, even as an adult, and how many times I’ve been places where I’ve wished: ‘Gosh, if I had seen this when they were trying to teach me out of the geography book or history book, it really would have sat with me better,”’ she said.

“Outside of strict educationa­l channels, too, we talk about socializin­g kids, instilling confidence and all of those sorts of things — and travel offers all of that.”

As a travel adviser, Sheila Gallant-Halloran of Ottawa said her busiest periods at work are when her clients are on vacation, such as March break and the summer. That’s one of the reasons the mother of two daughters, age 14 and eight, has previously allowed them to miss school to help accommodat­e the occasional family vacation, such as a fall trip to Walt Disney World or an extended break for travel around Easter.

“Work commitment is the biggest thing for me. But certainly there are price considerat­ions,” said Gallant-Halloran, luxury travel adviser with Vision Travel/Lush Life.

Having children miss several days, a week or more from school for non-essential travel may prove appealing to parents looking to squeeze in family getaways within busy work schedules or seeking to save with last-minute deals. Representa­tives for public school boards in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver told The Canadian Press that cases are addressed on an individual basis, and the decision on whether kids will miss class ultimately rests with the parents, provided they obtain proper clearances from school officials.

“Teachers often do get requests for homework when students are going to be away, and it does require additional work for the teacher planning what activities will be meaningful for a student when they’re not in class, and trying to make sure that they do get caught up on assessment­s,” said Dianne Woloschuk, president of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation.

Woloschuk, who has 35 years of teaching experience in Saskatchew­an, also noted that “vacations can have education value.”

“I guess it depends a lot on how the parents will approach that,” said Woloschuk, adding that she thinks teachers would be concerned about students who are struggling missing school for a vacation.

Gallant-Halloran said she contacts teachers in advance and confirms her kids will cover the work they miss. She recalled one year when they travelled to Disney and one of her kids was assigned by a teacher to complete work as she toured Epcot Center, which features internatio­nal pavilions, tying in an aspect of what was being learned in school directly to the trip.

“They know it’s a benefit to be able to extend their vacation, extend their knowledge by going on vacation and learning about other cultures, or just having time together as a family. But schoolwork comes first,” said Gallant-Halloran. “So we have to make sure that if we do take them out of school, they can quickly catch up and that they don’t miss any important learning.”

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